To lovers of Pedro Almodovar’s original 1988 film the idea of staging a musical version with an extremely British cast may seem ludicrous, not to say heretical. Thankfully the gamble pays off; in this surreal and intensely feminine world, Spanish passion and flamboyancy translate surprisingly well into British neuroticism and hysteria.
Our heroine, Pepa, has been unceremoniously dumped by voicemail and is now in hot pursuit of her elusive ex, Ivan. Her frantic chase around Madrid brings her up against a host of eccentric and troubled characters, including Ivan’s vengeful ex-wife, his son, his son’s prim fiancée, a ballsy lawyer with a dark secret and a scatty model with serious boyfriend troubles; not to mention an unusual taxi driver who serves, occasionally, as the Jiminy Cricket of all this madness. Alternately touching and screamingly funny, the story draws together this little band of misfits, each of whom is looking for that secret, special something which will fix their lives and make everything ok. A thundering feminist treatise this is not; everybody is lost, men and women alike, and the story is really an exploration of the frailty, strength, kindness and ridiculousness of humanity as a whole.
There is a dreamlike quality to much of the staging; placards are held up with helpful directions, matadors march on and off at random, the dance sequences are often deeply surreal and the vibrant colours of both set and costumes lend to the general air of unreality. All of this helps to pass off the many unlikely coincidences involved in the plot, as well as the fact that terrorism and violent death are glossed over with barely a raised eyebrow from most of the characters. What is very real, however, is the emotion. Tamsin Greig is superb as the bombastic yet fragile Pepa. Her well-meaning ineptitude and fierce determination to hold everything together as her world collapses about her ears is charming; she is sweet, flawed and very, very real. Haydn Gwynne gives a magnificently comic yet raw performance as the spurned wife, Lucia, and Anna Skellern is eye-wateringly funny as the unbalanced model, Candela.
David Yazbek’s songs, whilst not particularly deep and meaningful on the whole, are catchy and entertaining and slip comfortably into the action. Greig carries off her first musical foray with aplomb and a deep, tuneful voice. Highlights include ‘Model Behaviour’, a fast paced and funny number performed with gusto by Skellern, and ‘Invisible’, a heart-breaking ode to aging women, by Gwynne as Lucia. Only ‘Tangled’ stuck a jarring note; the lyrics were slightly awkward and the choreography overly stagy.
Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown is actually much like Pepa herself; brave, sensitive, joyous and with an enormous heart. It leaves you with a warm glow, very welcome on a cold, dark night.
Review by Genni Trickett
WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
Music & Lyrics by David Yazbek, Book by Jeffrey Lane. Based on the original film by Pedro Almodovar. Directed by Bartlett Sher.
Olivier-Award winner Tamsin Greig (Episodes, Green Wing, Jumpy, God of Carnage) makes her musical theatre debut in the UK premiere of David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane’s new musical adaptation of Pedro Almodovar’s Oscar-nominated film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Capturing the sexy and colourful spirit of Pedro Almodovar’s Madrid, Pepa (Tamsin Greig) and her friends juggle their everyday lives and extraordinary moments in a surprising, heart-breaking and rebellious musical comedy.
CAST: TAMSIN GREIG – PEPE, HAYDN GWYNNE – LUCIA, JÉRÔME PRADON – IVAN, ANNA SKELLERN – CANDELLA, WILLEMIJN – VERKAIK PAULINA, RICARDO AFONSO – TAXI DRIVER, SELINE HIZLI – MARISA, HAYDN OAKLEY – CARLOS, MARIANNE BENEDICT – ENSEMBLE, HOLLY JAMES – ENSEMBLE, MICHAEL MATUS – DIRECTOR, DETECTIVE AND MAGISTRATE #2, REBECCA MCKINNIS – ENSEMBLE, SARAH MOYLE – ENSEMBLE, ALASTAIR NATKIEL – ENSEMBLE, NUNO QUEIMADO – ENSEMBLE, DALE RAPLEY – MAGISTRATE/DR/CHIEF INSPECTOR.
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Wednesday and Saturday 2.30pm
Previews from 17th December 2014
Opens 12th January 2015
Booking to 9th May 2015
Wednesday 14th January 2015